New stroke and dementia treatments move closer

Edinburgh University researchers ‘delighted’ as tests show drugs safe to use

Friday 26th April 2019

A small-scale Edinburgh University study could pave the way for new treatments to prevent certain types of stroke and dementia.

Researchers found two drugs – commonly used to treat other conditions such as heart disease and angina – can be used safely in stroke patients, opening the possibility of larger trials to test whether they can prevent forms of stroke and dementia caused by damage to small blood vessels in the brain.

The University of Edinburgh’s Professor Joanna Wardlaw, who led the research, said she was “delighted” at the findings as there are no other effective preventative treatments.

57 stroke patients recruited by the universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham took the drugs for nine weeks alongside their existing anti-stroke treatments.

There were ‘no serious side effects’, even when the drugs – called cilostazol and isosorbide mononitrate – were taken together, in a full dose or in combination with other medicines.

A larger study is now underway to test whether the treatment can prevent further strokes.

There were also signs the treatments helped improve blood vessel function in the arms and brain, and could improve thinking skills – but researchers stress more research is needed to test this.

The study was funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, alongside other UK charities, the EU and UK and Scottish health research funding agencies.  

Dr James Pickett of the Alzheimer’s Society said: “There hasn’t been a new drug for dementia for 15 years, so finding evidence that these cheap existing drugs could prevent dementia after a stroke would be a huge breakthrough.

"It’s promising to see that these two drugs are safe to use and we’ll be excited to see the results of the next stage of testing in a couple of years, which will show whether these drugs can be an effective treatment.”